It’s fair to say Aidan Tilley’s VFL introduction could not have gone better.

Lining up as the 23rd man for Coburg, the Calder Cannons’ top-ager turned heads in an unfamiliar role up forward, slotting two goals and taking one of the marks of the season to be named in the best in last weekend’s nine-point loss to the Northern Blues.

“I just tried to make as big an impact as I could and keep competing,” Tilley told Coburg media.

“That’s all that was asked of me, just to compete and bring the ball to ground, and that’s what I tried to do.”

The 19-year old has been a shining light in the Cannons’ frustrating season to date, holding down a key defensive position with great success.

The bigger bodies of the VFL didn’t faze the versatile Tilley, who believes he still has room for improvement despite making an eye-catching start.

“I’m not the biggest bloke, but I just tried to crash [the packs],” Tilley said.

“I’ve just got to stick some more of my tackles, so hopefully I can get better at that.”

Tilley’s impressive form for the Cannons made his eventual selection for the Lions almost inevitable, but that did nothing to dampen his excitement heading in.

“I heard over and over again from ‘Kytey’ (Cannons’ talent manager Ian Kyte) and ‘Johno’ (head coach Andrew Johnston) that I might be making my debut,” he said.

“But even when I got the call-up, you still can’t really put into words how you feel about it.

“Even though you’re expecting it, it’s still a good feeling.”

He finished with 12 disposals, eight marks and two tackles in his first taste of VFL.

With AFL-listed players including Sam Kerridge, Andrew Phillips, Nick Graham and Simon White (Carlton) playing for the Northern Blues, easing into the higher level wasn’t an option.

Tilley, whose dad Paul played 15 VFL matches for Fitzroy at St Kilda, kicked one goal in his second outing for the Lions against Port Melbourne on Saturday.

Coburg has provided a platform for Calder players to test themselves in the VFL as 23rd man in recent seasons, with Sydney rookie Ben Ronke among those to seize their chance in the state league competition. 


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